A data breach can be a serious incident that shouldn’t be ignored as it can have significant consequences if your data ends up in the hands of those who look to misuse it. Whether the breach affects businesses, governments, or individuals, huge complications can come from having sensitive information exposed. Without proper attention to detail, a small vulnerability in a system can cause a huge breach of data.
Many people are often unaware of how common modern security threats work and so don’t give it enough attention, leaving them at higher risk of a breach. If you think your data might have been compromised, take action and don’t ignore it as you could be entitled to GDPR breach compensation.
What counts as a data breach?
A data breach can be defined as the exposure of confidential, personal, sensitive, or protected information to an unauthorised party. For example, online files that are viewed and/or shared without permission from the owner of the data. Generally, data breaches can occur due to a number of reasons but often due to weaknesses in technology and security, or human error and user behaviour.
As our computers and mobile devices get more connective features, there are more opportunities for data to slip through. New technologies are being produced often faster than we can protect them. All it can take is one person to compromise a network or system and leave thousands of pieces of personal data affected.
How can data breaches occur?
It is assumed that data breaches are caused by outside hackers, but this is not always the case. Reasons for how a data breach might happen can sometimes be the result of an intentional attack. However, it can just as easily be the result of a simple oversight by an employee or a flaw in the company’s infrastructure. Here are a few examples of how a data breach can happen.
- An accident on the inside – for example an employee using a co-worker’s computer and reading files without having the right authorisation permissions. The access is not intentional and no further information is shared. However, because the data was viewed by a person who did not have permission to access it, this would count as a data breach.
- An insider with malicious intent – a person intentionally accesses and/or shares data with the purpose of causing harm to an individual or company. The employee might have legitimate permission to access but they intend to use it or share it to someone outside of the company for illegal reasons.
- Stolen or lost devices – this could be an unencrypted and unlocked laptop or external hard drive, anything that contains personal or sensitive information that goes missing.
- Outside criminals – these are hackers who use various methods of attack to collect information from a network or system.
What is a targeted data breach?
Even though data breaches can be the result of an innocent error, real damage is possible if the person who accesses the data steals and sells it. Cybercriminals sometimes follow a simple pattern, targeting an organisation for a breach. They learn their target’s weak points, then develop the best way to get inside the system or get the victim to accidentally download malware. When they are inside, the hackers have the freedom to look for the data they want, and often a lot of time to do it, as the average data breach takes more than five months to detect.
Common vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers include:
- Weak credentials
- Stolen credentials
- Compromised assets
- Payment card fraud
- Third-party access
- Unsecured devices